You missed quite a bit at last night’s board meeting. First, there was a parade of hopping mad Eastbluff residents who said they were “very, very, upset,” and “angry,” among other descriptions of what they believed is a school board that is talking with a forked tongue.  The board’s actions were called “unconscionable.”

The issue for the residents is the stadium – sorry, “sports complex” – that will be built at CdM High. One resident complained that his resident group felt “outside of the process” and “never had any real input.”

Welcome to the party. These comments and others reminded me of the fence meeting at Adams Elementary at which Mesa Verde residents were shown plans for a school fence that was drastically different from what they were previously shown. When asked about the difference, the school board representative said, “We changed our minds.”

The board member reports yielded another insight into the minds of the trustees when Vicki Snell addressed a question by an unnamed person who asked her what was being done to improve test scores in Costa Mesa schools. Snell responded first by saying that we’d all have to wait for the next round of testing to see if any progress has been made, then described the school visits she had made and how “impressive” it all was. Her exact words were, “I was very impressed with what we’re doing.”

Sorry to be the one to inform Snell, but those school visits that you and your colleagues make? They always going to be impressive. Every classroom will be spotless, every student will be bright and alert and every teacher will tell you that things are great. Why? Because if they dare to speak up, they know they’ll be Caldecotted, that is, they could be given a teaching assignment in Siberia or wherever it is that they send teachers who have the nerve to tell the truth.

And the truth is this: Kids are being promoted before they are ready for the next grade level. Lots of them.

But what was really astounding was Snell’s reliance on the language issue on the Westside. It is her belief that because “… they don’t speak English, they’re going to be behind in reading.”

So Snell trotted out the school board line they’ve been using for years: If only the kids on Costa Mesa’s Westside spoke better English, life would be good.

That could be an argument if Costa Mesa had just welcomed thousands of Spanish-speaking kids from another country, but here’s the truth: Those Spanish-speaking kids have been there for decades and the district still has not figured out how to crack the code on improving their academic performance. (In desperation, they’re actually teaching kids in Chinese at one school).

This shameful attempt to blame students for poor academic performance is consistent with the greater attitude of the district. Just last week, I wrote about Supt. Frederick Navarro’s attempt to latch onto a lawyer’s brain physiology theory to explain the poor performance.

The board has been doing this shuck and jive for a very long time. What’s worse is that while they flail about trying to figure out how to get these kids up to speed, other schools in the country have been successful. And I’m going to guess that not one of those schools has Chinese as part of their curriculum.

It’s a matter of complacency, which is the cancer of any private enterprise but standard operating procedure for any bureaucracy.

One public speaker described her shock at the additional “don’t retire” money for Dept. Supt. Paul Reed by saying that “no one is indispensable, not even the President.” She went on to say that the board was not doing its “duty as an education watchdog.”

There was no defense by any of the trustees or Supt. Frederick Navarro, and the board continued on its merry rubber stamping ways with two 7-0 votes.

Though she did not have any defense for the “watchdog” speaker, board president Dana Black took two minutes to describe the terrible traffic around her home.

So in the end, in we get more of the same: Blaming students for poor academic performance, no substantive discussion on why they changed their minds about the CdM stadium – darn it, sorry, sports complex – no defense of their reckless spending. But we did get an earful about traffic.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Steve Smith